Daily Archives: February 22, 2015

Movie Review – Birdman (Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 2014

Boosting this up since the Oscars are tonight. Who do you think will take home a statue?

Bookshelf Battle

Or, Hollywood is Sorry for Pushing Crap on You, But It’s Kind of Your Fault.

In 1989, Michael Keaton starred as the first Batman to not suck.  That role made his career.  I’d argue that it didn’t really define him though.  He’s been in zany comedies and serious dramas, performing expertly in both.

Yet, as a former Batman who’s ditched the cowl to seek out more serious roles, one is left to wonder how much of Birdman is semi-autobiographical.  Does Keaton identify with Riggan?  Only Keaton could truly answer that.

Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a big time actor who, twenty years ago, played a feathery comic book super hero in a series of Birdman films.  They were special effects extravaganzas that made him a lot of money and were big at the box office.

Movieclips Trailers

Today, Riggan is trying to leave his past behind him and gain recognition as…

View original post 1,402 more words

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A Response from the Yeti

EDITOR’S NOTE: This morning I, as I sipped my coffee at Bookshelf Battle HQ, I discovered, much to my great surprise, the following note scrawled in poor penmanship taped to my front door. I cleaned it up a little, removed the many, many obscenities, and typed it out. Personally, I do not believe the Yeti deserves a response, but I suppose that in the name of fairness, I must allow him one.

Here is my recent post about my encounter with the Yeti.

And now, the Yeti’s response:

MY RESPONSE TO BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER’S OUTRAGEOUS, LIBELOUS STATEMENTS

By: The Yeti

Hello.  This is the Yeti.  And boy do I have a bee in my bonnet to share with you people.

Did I break into Bookshelf Battle Headquarters?  Yes.  Did I make my way into Bookshelf Q. Battler’s personal office space?  Yes.

Did I have a right to be there?  No.  Did Bookshelf Q. Battler have the right to subdue me with brute force?  Yes.

But let’s be honest about how it all went down.

Bookshelf Q. Battler is trying to present this tough guy image, paint himself as the only book blogger who fights monsters with his left hand while holding the book he’s reading in his right.  Ridiculous.

The truth that his 3.5 regular readers need to hear is that Bookshelf Q. Battler is no tough guy at all.  Before I broke into his compound, I spent many hours observing him through his living room window.  That’s not weird because I was on a mission.

What did I observe?  I observed one Bookshelf Q. Battler in a bathrobe, a makeshift bath towel turban on his head, cold cream on his face, sipping a strawberry daiquiri while watching Steel Magnolias.  In fact, I observed on his coffee table a pile of DVDs, the titles of which included Beaches, Thelma and Louise, and Fried Green Tomatoes.  It was a veritable treasure trove of 90’s era female empowerment flicks.  And he calls himself a tough guy.

You want to know who the real tough guy is?  Me.  The Yeti.  That’s who.  You see, I have used my special yeti powers to forsake most of America with blistering cold temperatures just so I can walk around your Godforsaken land and hunt Bookshelf Q. Battler with impunity.  Yetis, as you may or may not be aware, need blistering cold temperatures to survive.  That’s just science.

Why am I after Bookshelf Q. Battler, you ask?  Long story short, I’m a Russian Yeti.  I’m not like my cousins, those high falutin,’ free-thinking Canadian yetis, or worse, those party all night, sleep all day Alaskan yetis.

I’m a yeti straight outta’ Siberia, son, and in Siberia, we have rules.  We stand in line for three days just to get our weekly ration kit, which includes: one granola bar, half a cup of water, one stale biscuit, and three toilet paper squares.  The Siberian powers that be have recently discussed the possibility of upping our allotment to four toilet paper squares, but if you ask me, that’s way too decadent.  Four toilet paper squares today means we’re all a bunch of Western wannabes tomorrow.  Four toilet paper squares will lead to us wearing cowboy hats, driving around in pink Cadillacs, and yelling, “Wazzzup?”  at each other.

Is “Wazzzup?” still even a thing in your country?  I don’t know.  We are just now getting documentaries of your renowned scientist, Steven Urkel.  I must say, his neighbors should be ashamed of the way they treated a man of such brilliance.

Anyway, this all started a few weeks ago.  I was sitting in the Siberian yeti village, gathered in the hut I share with five hundred of my yeti relatives, all huddled around the one computer we collectively own.  It is a 1986 Commodore 64, the absolute height of modern Western technology.  You didn’t think we’d get our hands on one of your precious Commodore 64’s, did you, America?  But we did.  And now we play Topper with reckless abandon.  All day long, we take turns controlling a mustached bartender as he whips one frothy beverage mug after another at his patrons.

Between games, we surf the net.  We do this through a Wi-Fi generating device we have devised through a pile of rusty tin cans, the engine from a 1964 Yugo, one thousand AA batteries, and a bag of blueberry muffins.  Do not ask me how it works.  Your fat, stupid, lazy, reality TV show addled American brains could never possibly comprehend the basic principles of yeti science.

While searching for a book entitled, 101 Ways to Make Your Three Toilet Paper Squares Last Longer, we stumbled upon Bookshelf Q. Battler’s website, bookshelfbattle.com

We held a Siberian yeti meeting, the conclusion of which was that Bookshelf Q. Battler’s website is much too awesome, that if allowed to exist, it would spread awesomeness all over the globe.  And the day that people are filled with ideas of awesomeness is the day that people and yetis alike start allowing their heads to be filled with ridiculous nonsense, like three toilet paper squares per week is not enough.

I, “The Yeti,” was elected by my yeti brothers and sisters to hunt Bookshelf Q. Battler down and stop his one post a day challenge.  We simply cannot allow people to receive that much daily awesomeness for a year, even if those people number 3.5.

This brings us to the crux of my complaint.  Did Bookshelf Q. Battler punch me in the face?  Yes.  However, he has left out crucial information and therefore, is guilty of a lie by omission.  He’d have you think that he punched me in the face after an elaborate exchange of fisticuffs, when in reality, he zapped me in the back with a cattle prod, turned me around on the swivel chair I was sitting on, and then punched me in the face AFTER I was already unconscious.

Because I was already subdued, I believe that Bookshelf Q. Battler is guilty of “book blogger brutality.”  My team of attorneys, who are also Siberian yetis, are currently exploring what options I may have to sue Bookshelf Q. Battler for the 3.5 dollars in his possession.  This money will go a long way to alleviate my pain and suffering, not to mention make me the wealthiest yeti in all of Siberia.  I will buy all of the toilet paper squares and rule the yeti village like a king.

Thank you, boorish and incompetent Americans, for taking the time to listen to my side of the story.

Sincerely,

The Yeti

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Lesson learned.  The next time I catch a yeti sitting in the swivel chair at my desk, trying to log on to my computer in an effort to shut down my blog, I will not take pity on him and leave his twitching carcass on the curb.  I will use my taxidermy skills to stuff him and leave him on my front door as a warning to all yetis everywhere.

The bathrobe?  True.  The cold cream?  True.  The daiquiri?  True.  What, I’m not allowed to unwind after a long day of bookshelf battling?

The DVDs were not 90’s era female empowerment movies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  The DVDs were 1990’s era action movies.  I was engrossed in a Jean Claude Vann Damme marathon.  It made me nostalgic for the days I spent teaching him everything he knows.

Did I electrocute the yeti in the back with a cattle prod before I punched him in the face?  Yes.  Was the yeti already unconscious?  No.  Everyone knows that cattle prods only slow yetis down, they do not subdue them.  The shock mildly stunned the yeti, giving me the upper hand I needed to apply the coupe de grace of a clothesline smash to the yeti’s proverbial snot box.  It wasn’t pretty.  I didn’t want to do it.  But I had no choice.  A man’s bookshelf battle compound is his castle.

If you have a question for me, post it below.  If you have a question for the Yeti, you may also post it and I will pose it to him.  He has agreed to take your questions.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to both sides.  I feel confident that my 3.5 regular readers will realize that I am a bastion of truth and honesty, whereas the Yeti is a dirty, dirty liar.

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Oscar 2015 Predictions

OK so I have failed miserably in my self-challenge to watch all 2015 Oscar nominated films.  I’m sorry to drop the petals off the daffodil folks, but occasionally this humble book blogger only reaches a 99.9% rate of perfection.

Thus far, I have only seen American Sniper, Birdman, and The Imitation Game (I still owe you a review).  I have  Boyhood loaded into my iTunes but have yet to get around to it.

So I’m a bit handicapped having not seen everything, which begs the question:

Bookshelf Q. Battler, are you really going to opine on things you know nothing about?

Um…yeah.  I do that everyday.  My original title for this blog was “Opinions on Stuff I Know Nothing About.”  Writing opinions on stuff I know nothing about is my God given right as an American.

Without further ado, my predictions:

BEST FILM – Birdman

All the commentary out there suggests there is a horse race going on between Boyhood and Birdman.  From what I’ve heard of Boyhood, it’s basically a “meh” sort of film and without the novel idea to shoot the young boy protagonist at different stages of his life, it probably wouldn’t have made it to the Oscars.

Meanwhile, Birdman has been winning many other awards and that’s a strong sign.

I’m going to flip a coin here and say Birdman.  Birdman has a lot of messages that Hollywood wants you to hear, namely a) Stop complaining we feed you so much crap when you’re the ones who are eating it b) Stop complaining we don’t make enough artsy fartsy movies when you never watch them and c) being an actor isn’t all its cracked up to be

BEST ACTOR – Michael Keaton (Birdman)

I’ve got to go with Keaton.  He’s been around for so long, he’s been in many amazing movies, and well, sad to say but, time keeps a-moving on whether we want it to or not, and he may not have many more chances to appear in Oscar buzz worthy work.  Carrell, Cooper, Cumberbatch, Redmayne all turned in great performances, but they still have time and haven’t been around as long.  It’s Keaton’s turn.

BEST ACTRESS – Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

I really, really want Rosamund Pike to win this for Gone Girl.  SPOILER ALERT – in that movie, she plays the Amy whose safety you’re very concerned about when she goes missing as well as the Amy who…well, just go watch it.

But this is the year where Hollywood settles its debts and like Keaton, Moore is also overdue.  That’s not a knock on Still Alice.  I’m sure it’s great.  She’s certainly been in a lot of other great films and is deserving.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – JK Simmons (Whiplash)

The King of the Actors Long Overdue for Recognition.  He’s that guy in every movie, you recognize his face as soon as you see it, but up until this nomination, you didn’t really know his name.  He’s also the voice of the Yellow M and M.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

When it comes to “long overdue” Arquette and Laura Dern (Wild) are both deserving.  However, Boyhood has had more attention than Wild, so I think it’s going to go to Arquette.  Emma and Keira turned in great performances, but they still have plenty of time.  And Meryl?  Jesus, she must be using these awards as paperweights at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR – Richard Linklater

Come on.  Filming a kid at different stages of life and mixing it all into one film.  Creative.  Give him an award.

SNUBS

Finally, here’s my list of snubs:

Interstellar – the movie laid out a roadmap on how to get to deep space.  Completely ignored!  What?  Who cares about outer space travel?  Michael Keaton’s pretending to be a bird!

The Lego Movie – Best animated movie of the year no matter what.  I assume it got turned down because it was seen by some as just a big commercial for legos but come on, most kids movies do lead to big time toy merchandising.  If it was a commercial, it was a commercial with heart.

Saint Vincent – That old grumpy person you know might not actually be a jerk.  He might have experienced some heinous crap that you can’t begin to comprehend.  He may have earned the right to be grumpy.  So cut him some slack.

The Drop/James Gandolfini – I wish James Gandolfini could have received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor nomination since, sadly, he’ll never have a chance at another one.  It was a decent film and in my opinion, Gandolfini’s best performance since The Sopranos.

What are your picks?  Who do you think got snubbed?  Inquiring Bookshelf Battlers want to know.

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Attack of the Killer Mutant Fish 4 – Trailer

Alright.  After four days, the film is in the can.  God made his masterpiece in seven days.  I made mine in four.

And just in time for Oscar night.

Here’s the trailer:

Ominous music…

MOVIE TRAILER GUY:  This summer…pet store owner Fred Jones is going to feel like a fish out of water…

FRED:  All day long I feed the fish.  I clean the tanks.  I watch them swim around.  I’m tired of the monotony.  I need a change.

MOVIE TRAILER GUY:  He’s a man with a troubled past…

GENERAL SMITH rips off FRED’S stripes.

GENERAL SMITH:  Every last man in your unit was eaten by a killer fish and what did you do?  You ran away like the pathetic, sniveling pansy that you are!  You make me sick!  Get out of my sight!

FRED:  Well, I guess I have nothing to do now but move to my hometown and start up a pet store.  But God as my witness, if I’m ever given the opportunity to save people from fish again, I’ll save every last one of them!

MOVIE TRAILER GUY:  There’s a lot at stake for Fred, and he might lose the love of his life in the process…

FRED’S GIRLFRIEND:  I just feel like you love this stupid pet store more than you love me.

FRED:  Well one of us have to have a job, Fred’s Girlfriend!

(Fred’s Girlfriend stomps out of the store)

FRED:  No!  Wait!  Fred’s Girlfriend!  Come back!

MOVIE TRAILER GUY:  And when a mad scientist enters the mix…

MAD SCIENTIST:  You ignored my warnings to preserve the environment, world!  Now I’ll teach you a lesson by ushering in a new age of mutant fish masters!

(MAD SCIENTIST dumps toxic waste into fish tanks.  Fish become enormous)

FRED:  Thank God I kept this shotgun under my counter just in case I ever have to kill a bunch of murderous fish!

(FRED cocks the gun – shoots at the fish)

FRED’S GIRLFRIEND:  I’m scared, Fred!

FRED:  Just stay behind me, Fred’s Girlfriend!  I’ll keep you safe!

MOVIE TRAILER GUY:  …things are about to get fishy.  Coming soon to a theater near you.

So there you have it.  Now I’m just waiting for Hollywood to back the Brinks Trucks up to my back door and unload all the sweet, sweet cash.

And no, I’m not having trouble coming up with material for this one post a day for a year challenge at all.

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Movie Review – Birdman (Or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 2014

Or, Hollywood is Sorry for Pushing Crap on You, But It’s Kind of Your Fault.

In 1989, Michael Keaton starred as the first Batman to not suck.  That role made his career.  I’d argue that it didn’t really define him though.  He’s been in zany comedies and serious dramas, performing expertly in both.

Yet, as a former Batman who’s ditched the cowl to seek out more serious roles, one is left to wonder how much of Birdman is semi-autobiographical.  Does Keaton identify with Riggan?  Only Keaton could truly answer that.

Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a big time actor who, twenty years ago, played a feathery comic book super hero in a series of Birdman films.  They were special effects extravaganzas that made him a lot of money and were big at the box office.

Movieclips Trailers

Today, Riggan is trying to leave his past behind him and gain recognition as a serious actor.  He’s broke, having sunk a fortune into a Broadway play adaptation of a work by author Raymond Carver.  And true to the style of a play, the cameras follow the actors on and off stage, with very few cut scenes throughout the film.

Actors aren’t as happy as you’d think, there’s intense pressure, you can’t please everyone, and whatever you do, someone is criticizing you.  You try to produce art (i.e. Raymond Carver) but alas, people just want fluff (i.e. Birdman).  Even worse, once you “sell-out” and take a role like “Birdman,” the “true artist” community will shun you and refuse to consider your attempts at artistry, even if they are worthy of notoriety.

As consumers of entertainment, should we push for real, serious, dramatic art?  Plays and movies where there’s all kinds of gut wrenching dialog to make you think?  Or should we just have fun and watch Birdman fight bad guys?

Are purveyors of comic book movies making us all stupid?  Are creators of heady dramas just too full of themselves?

These questions are asked, and never really answered, though the movie serves as a chronicle of one actor’s attempt to produce serious art only to be stymied at every turn.

Riggan’s foil, played by Ed Norton, is veteran broadway thespian Mike Shiner.  Recruited for Riggan’s play, Shiner is a pretentious limelight hog and though he claims to be all about the art, he’s ultimately just as obnoxious as any movie star.

Meanwhile, Riggan has to deal with a snooty play review critic, who vows to shut Riggan’s play down before even seeing it, simply because she does not believe someone who stooped low enough to play a cartoon superhero is deserving of praise for attempting real art.

In other words, if the entertainment world is at war, then it’s a battle between the big blockbuster fluff eaters and the holier than thou tweed jacket wearers.  Both think they’re the smartest people in the room.  Neither is willing to meet the other half way.

Emma Stone, who plays Riggan’s daughter, Sam, earns her Oscar nomination with this speech:

TEXT OF SAM/EMMA STONE’S “RELEVANT SPEECH” FROM BIRDMAN

RIGGAN:  It’s important to me! Alright? Maybe not to you, or your cynical friends whose only ambition is to go viral. But to me . . . To me . . this is — God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.

SAM: Means something to who? You had a career before the third comic book movie, before people began to forget who was inside the bird costume. You’re doing a play based on a book that was written 60 years ago, for a thousand rich old white people whose only real concern is gonna be where they go to have their cake and coffee when it’s over. And let’s face it, Dad, it’s not for the sake of art. It’s because you want to feel relevant again. Well, there’s a whole world out there where people fight to be relevant every day. And you act like it doesn’t even exist! Things are happening in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you. I mean, who are you? You hate bloggers. You make fun of Twitter. You don’t even have a Facebook page. You’re the one who doesn’t exist. You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.

I don’t know about you, but after I listened to Emma rant away on that one, I came close to shutting down this blog. (Obviously I didn’t, because, you know, nothing can stop me from my one a day post challenge.

Still, Sam’s right.   We’re all just shouting in the wind, trying to be relevant, trying to matter.  And at the end of the day, after movie goers walk out of the theater, after play watchers go out for cake, after novel readers put a book down, and after my 3.5 regular readers go on to read another blog…how relevant are we?  As it turns out…not very.

Fame is fleeting and celebrities just aren’t as happy as we think.

Throughout the film, Riggan is taunted by Birdman himself – a gravelly voice that sounds more like Christian Bale’s version of Batman than Keaton’s.  Birdman is the voice of commercialism, urging Riggan to abandon his efforts at serious drama and sell-out – do a reality TV show, make a Birdman comeback movie.  Forget the hoity toy stuff and just rake in the dough.

And honestly, whether Birdman is right or wrong is left up to the viewer’s interpretation.

Big surprise of the film – Zach Galifianakis can actually act.  He plays Riggan’s agent and rather than be that same old obliviously rude cartoon character he plays in every movie, he actually comes across as a competent, reliable professional, someone you’d actually want to represent you if you were an actor.

At one point, Shakepeare’s “Life is a Tale Told by an Idiot” speech from MacBeth is prominently featured.  If you want to know more about that, you can read expert commentary from world renowned literary expert Bookshelf Q. Battler.

It’s a film that starts a dialog about what we, the entertainment consuming public, want from Hollywood.  Because, as it turns out, if enough of us want it, they’ll give it to us.  If we show them that high-falutin, chin-stroking, navel gazing, thought provoking dramas will make money, then Tinseltown will send them our way.  Yet, if we keep buying tickets for Birdman-esque blockbusters, then we’ll get more comic book movies.  It really is up to us.

And it’s also up to us to determine whether or not we should feel guilty about choosing comic book-esque movies over drama.  Personally, I don’t.  I’m a nerd.  I love comic book movies.  I love hoity toity stuff too.  There’s room in the world for both.  One need not cancel the other out.

And sure, the public often complains that Hollywood isn’t trying that hard, but then we pay more attention to viral videos, tweets, and gossipy nonsense than serious efforts at art.  At one point in the film, Riggan’s stroll through Times Square in his underpants gets more attention through social media than his play ever does.

We all want to be relevant.  We’re all clawing over each other to grab our piece of the public’s limited attention span.  We’re all idiots.  Can’t we all just calm down, take a deep breathe, stop crawling over each other for a few fleeting minutes of fame, and take a moment to enjoy friends, family, and the things that actually matter?  At the end of the film, Riggan frets more about not spending enough time with his daughter than he does about his fizzling acting career.

Heck, had I not promised my 3.5 regular readers a year’s worth of posts, I might seriously consider packing it in myself.

Because if a guy who was paid buckets of money to dress up like a cartoon bird hero can’t be happy, then what luck do any of us have?

I predict this film will win best picture.  Keaton’s had a long career and has yet to be graced with an academy award, so he’s overdue.  Ironically, it’s a movie about a man trying to get past commercialism and make some serious art made by a man who’s trying to get past commercialism and make some serious art.

The Academy will no doubt love its message – “Hey, we actors aren’t as happy as you’d think, we really struggle to make you all happy!”

And finally, I’d just like to say, I think Michael Keaton is awesome.  He made me laugh in movies like The Dream Team and Beetlejuice.  And I remember seeing him in the first Batman and I thought, “Wow, Hollywood picked a guy that isn’t all buff and muscle-bound to play a super hero and he did an awesome job.  Maybe there’s hope for us nerds.”  So I hope tomorrow night is his night to walk home with a little gold man.  (I mean an Oscar, not an actual little gold man).

Did you see it?  What did you think?  Flap your bird wings to the comment section and let me know.

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Bookshelf Battle Origin Story – Sneak Peak

In case you missed it and were wondering how I became a Bookshelf Battler…

Bookshelf Battle

I give you the first chapter of a rough draft of the Bookshelf Q. Battler origin story.  Keep in mind, I only mention characters like Katniss from The Hunger Games or the Pevensie family from Chronicles of Narnia for parody purposes only, and obviously those characters were created by Suzanne Collins and C.S. Lewis, respectively.

If I keep going and serialize this, is this something you 3.5 regular readers will be interested in?  Does it stink?  Is it worth it?  Applause is always welcome, but I need critics to tell me what I’m doing wrong as well.

The first chapter is below.  Let me know what you think.

My name is Bookshelf Q. Battler.

That’s not the name I was given. It is the name I have chosen, for it describes who I am and what I do.

I am the world’s foremost authority on bookshelf combat. I’ll give you…

View original post 1,945 more words